I recently listened to a podcast by Elizabeth Hames for CBC Radio. The podcast series is called ‘Slumtown’ and it consists of five episodes, the first title is ‘The Neighbours.’ I thought the episode would depict not only the not in my backyard’ (NIMBY) point of view but also the homeless, addicted and mental health folks who reside in those neighbourhoods. It did not.
The Edmonton region has 1 in 10 people experiencing poverty or 119,950 people. A family of four is considering in poverty when their income is about $39,000 a year or less. The data shows 53% of those experiencing poverty are women, 11% identify as Aboriginal and 42% identify as visible minorities. 9,705 lone parent families are living in low income, of these 8,460 families are female-led.
Sometimes people in marginalized or impoverished situations get invited to participate in surveys, group sessions and focus groups. What I wonder is, who are these data collection gatherings actually for? In theory, the basis is to help the marginalized and/or impoverished to receive better access to the necessary services. Of course, these services are in fact defined by social and government designs. What does this mean? Well for me - being considered "marginalized" or “living in poverty,” I get to participate in the process that will inevitably help me maneuver through the system. A system designed with bias.
For the last 14 years, the Edmonton Coalition on Homelessness and Housing organizes a Homeless Memorial to honour those who have died due to the effects of homelessness in the last year. I was first asked four years ago to share my personal story of how housing changed my life after living homeless for many years. I spoke two years in a row and each time I emphasized what I would like to see change for my fellow neighbours experiencing homelessness.
Susannah Cameron is the Community Engagement Manager for EndPovertyEdmonton. On May 30 & 31 this year, she attended the Make It B.I.G. (Basic Income Guarantee) Public Forum in Calgary to hear experts, including those living in poverty, make the case for implementing a basic income in Alberta.
The majority of the North American population are not required to live in constant survival mode and likely do not understand what true survival actually is. The average person usually thinks of survival as the most obvious and basic items such as clothes on your back, stay close to food and water, have a place to get rest and find a way to get from A to B. There’s much more to survival.
“Transit is generally recognized as one of those essential areas for connecting people in the community,” says Carrie Hotton-MacDonald, director of business integration and workplace development at Edmonton Transit Service. The aim of EndPovertyEdmonton’s GameChanger Accessible and Affordable Transit is to do just that - help Edmontonians stay connected with each other.
Regularly I get to work with government officials to advise on these very subjects. I advocate to keep all levels of government accountable to us, their citizens. Anyone can do this. If you are reading this, you can ask your politicians the same questions.
Twenty per cent of people will deal with a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime. Tom is one of those people. He tears up when he shares his story. Although its painful details are unique to him, one thing connects him to others living with mental health issues and poverty: a system that’s often not as easy to access or as sympathetic as it needs to be.
Livable income has been identified as one of EndPovertyEdmonton’s Game Changers — actionable items we as a community can undertake to effect real change for those experiencing poverty. The central tenet of livable income is succinctly put by Kevin Kent, founder of the Knifewear Group of companies: “People who work full-time should not live in poverty.”
“I was waiting at the bus stop and there were Indigenous people standing around. And I looked at the ground. I was waiting in the grocery line and there were Indigenous people in front of me and behind me. And I looked at the ground. I was with my children at the library, looking for a book. There were Indigenous people in the same aisle as me. And I looked at the ground. But after learning about Canada’s Indigenous history, after talking to Indigenous people and learning about them, I don’t look at the ground anymore. I look them in the eyes, and I say hello.”
Until last September, Billie MacFarlane found herself stuck in an untenable child care situation. The exhaustion and stress took a toll. “My depression increased and I had to change medication to help cope… Being with children five and under 24/7 created extreme loneliness and resentment. A simple outing to pick up groceries or get the mail is a big deal… Grocery shopping online has become my friend.” Billie also had concerns for Sophie, then four years old, and triplets Logan, Ericka, and Naomi, then three years old, because her only other choice would be low-quality out-of-home care.
Twenty-four hours in a day can be the most exhausting 24 hours if you’re homeless. Seven years ago I was experiencing homelessness and if I could get into a women’s shelter for the night, it was a blessing.
I have tried to work with my disability, however I have a lot of challenges. I was unable to do anything with my hopeless state of mind and my body. Because of this, I have lived on AISH my entire life. This can be isolating, I don’t have the means to do the things I want or buy things I may need. There’s so much I would like to have or do while I am still alive, but I am unable.
EndPovertyEdmonton welcomes a new Community Engagement Coordinator, Kourtney Boucher, to work closely with the EPE Indigenous Circle in advancing reconciliation and the work to end poverty in Edmonton.
I believe poverty is the biggest barrier for people with disabilities. Poverty prevents people from a happy, healthy and positive quality of life. It can make a person feel worthless, alone and like they cannot achieve or attain the things they want to in life - or at least that is how it has made me feel.
Work on advancing the development and stability of the food system in Edmonton has produced opportunities for food entreprenuers to work together. On March 6, 2019 EPE and CUP will host a social good food entreprenuer meet-up event delivering information on collaborations in our city.
In the recent weeks we’ve experienced unusual cold snaps and Arctic lows, I am reminded of my own suffering with Jack Frost and his gaggle of cold. A part of my life was living in the outdoors as my home. Homelessness plagued my life for too long and I realize that if I had not had the community of fellow homeless folks, I would never have survived the frigid temperatures.